April 26th, 2016 8:54 am ET - Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, MPH, MS, and Thomas Cunningham, PhD
Robbery-related homicides and assaults are the leading cause of death in retail businesses. Workers in convenience stores have a 7 times higher rate of work-related homicide than workers in other industries (2 homicides per 100,000 workers vs. 0.28 per 100,000 workers). There are disparities among the homicide victims, too. Specifically, black, Asian, and Hispanic men have disproportionately higher homicide rates than white men. Additionally, foreign-born men have disproportionately higher homicide rates than U.S.-born men, and men 65 and older have disproportionately higher homicide rates than any other age group.[i]
Retail establishments using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) programs, which suggest that environments can be modified to reduce robberies, have experienced 30%–84% decreases in robberies and a 61% decrease in non-fatal injuries.[ii]
In 2008, a Houston task force convened by the mayor, chaired by a local convenience store owner, and co-chaired by the Houston Police Department instituted a city ordinance incorporating CPTED principles to reduce robberies and associated injuries by implementing mandated security measures. Dallas followed suit and passed the same ordinance. Among other actions, the ordinance requires that convenience stores: register with the police department, view a required training video, post no-trespassing signs, provide a clear view to and from the sales area, and install an alarm system.
In 2011, NIOSH conducted a study to evaluate convenience store compliance with the ordinance in each city.[iii] Store managers in approximately 300 randomly selected convenience stores in Houston and Dallas were interviewed. While compliance to most individual requirements was high (79% of stores reported registering with the police, conducting training and instituting a cash limit policy) overall compliance was low with only 9% of stores in full compliance with all requirements of the ordinance. For both cities compliance was lower among single owner-operator stores compared to corporate-owned or franchise stores. The differences in ordinance compliance between single owner-operator stores and franchised stores is important to note. Smaller businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) have a disproportionately higher rate of work-related injury and illness. The higher rate of injury and illness could be due to a host of reasons, including: lack of resources, manager inexperience with work safety practices, and inaccurate perceptions about safety on the job. Regardless the reason, smaller businesses can benefit from external assistance for workplace safety and health matters.
Even without assistance from others, there are steps single owner-operator stores and others can take. Yet, some of the least complied-with measures were two approaches considered low-cost and straightforward to adopt – post signage and provide a clear view of the sales area. Posting signage such as those stating store policy limiting cash, security cameras in use, etc. had 26% compliance and only 60% of stores complied with the visibility requirement. The ordinance states: “All Convenience Stores shall maintain an unobstructed line of sight allowing a clear view of and from the cash register and sales area. Windows and doors must be clear of all items that would obstruct a clear view from three feet above the ground to at least six feet above the ground.”
Intermediaries Are Important
An important approach to increasing store compliance would likely involve direct, targeted interactions with key stakeholders, or intermediaries. This approach involves identifying influential intermediaries, such as insurance companies and chambers of commerce, who are able to communicate with store managers and workers via both formal and informal networks. These intermediaries may be key for helping to eliminate workplace violence-related injury disparities, especially in smaller businesses that tend to lack resources to support worker safety and health. They are influential for safety and health decisions because they are already in a position to provide tangible and business-friendly solutions and support, to which new or additional safety and health content can be added.
What influential intermediaries have you worked with to reduce workplace violence in a small business setting? What are some intermediaries you think might be promising to work with? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, MPH, MS, is a Research Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research and the Assistant Coordinator for the Traumatic Injury Prevention Program.
Thomas Cunningham, PhD, is a behavioral scientist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division and the coordinator for the NIOSH Small Business Assistance and Outreach Program.
For more information:
Application of a model for delivering occupational safety and health to smaller businesses: Case studies from the US.
How to engage small retail businesses in workplace violence prevention: Perspectives from small businesses and influential organizations.
[i] Chaumont Menéndez et al , Disparities in work-related homicide rates in selected retail industries in the United States, 2003-2008. Journal of Safety Research 44:25-29.
[ii] Casteel C, Peek-Asa C. Effectiveness of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) in reducing robberies. Am J Prev Med 2000;18:99–115.